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Top 10 tourist places in Tamil Nadu

Discussion in 'Tamil Nadu' started by Keenat, Nov 8, 2016.

  1. Keenat

    Keenat New Member

    I am looking to visit Tamil Nadu a state in South India which I believe has so many beautiful places to see. When planning my visit to Tamil Nadu, I won't have all the time in the world to see everything but will give myself enough time to at least visit some of the best tourist places there.

    I would like to know what the top 10 tourist places in Tamil Nadu are, so when I plan my holiday I would know the amount of time I would need to go to the places mentioned and execute my trip well.

  2. briannagodess

    briannagodess Well-Known Member

    Hello, @Keenat, welcome to the forum!

    (Images from Vinoth Chandar via Flickr, Arjun Prabhakaran via Wikimedia, Alosh Bennett via Flickr, Gopinath Sivanesan via Wikimedia and Karthikeyan Pandian via Wikimedia)


    As a tourist destination, Tamil Nadu has lots to offer. The state is mostly known for its ancient temples, beautifully crafted and full of vibrancy. If you love natural attractions, Tamil Nadu has greenery in every corner too. You can opt for hill stations or even wildlife sanctuaries. Culturally, the state is also blessed, as it has done well to preserve its art and musical forms. You can also find unexplored destinations around the state, places that are still in their most pristine form, untouched by modernity and commercialisation. Starting your journey into the southern part of India? Tamil Nadu can be your first destination, a state so diverse, welcoming and full of heart, it would make you want more.

    Top Ten Tourist Places in Tamil Nadu

    Modernity mixed with tradition...

    1. Chennai - Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu, is also one of its most vibrant cities. What sets Chennai apart is that it has preserved its culture best when compared to other metro cities. Yes, modernity prevails in the city, with the advent of shopping complexes and IT industries. But still, there's an abundance of temples and even classical arts centres in the city. Even its people are proud of their heritage, not afraid of professing their love for the arts and local culture. Incredibly busy yet divine is the Kapaleeshwar Temple, built around the 7th century, dedicated to Lord Shiva (Kapaleeshwar) and his consort, Parvati (Karpagambal). It has a very colourful gopuram and beautifully carved pillars worthy of exploring. The Sri Parthasarathy Temple is another must visit here, dedicated to Lord Parthasarathy, the moustached form of Lord Krishna. The temple has a long history behind it having been built around the 8th century by the Pallava dynasty. The first ever British fortress in the country, the Fort Saint George, can be found in Chennai. While it has been converted into a legislative office now, it still retains the old colonial era style of architecture. Inside the fort, you can visit a museum showcasing artefacts collected throughout the reign of the British empire. Chennai's pride and glory is the Marina Beach, the second longest urban beach in the world. With tons of hawkers, vendors, food stalls and activities going around, it's the best place to witness the lively locals of the city. If you want a more secluded option, you can go to the Edward Elliot's Beach, just on the end side of the former beach. Locals fondly refer to it as the Bessie Beach and it's the best place to enjoy the sunset in Chennai. For those travelling with the little ones, Chennai has an assortment of attractions that they could enjoy. The Guindy National Park is one of the few national parks located within a city and it is home to a few wild animals such as blackbucks, barking deers, panthers and jaguars. There are many museums around the city but one that the children would surely take interest in is the Railway Museum. They can learn more about the history of the Indian Railways and at the same time, enjoy the exhibits here.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Kapaleeshwar Temple, Sri Parthasarathy Temple, Fort Saint George, Marina Beach, Edward Elliot's Beach, Guindy National Park and Railway Museum
    2. Madurai - Known as one of the five oldest cities of India, Madurai should also be in your itinerary when exploring Tamil Nadu. Did you know that Madurai has had trading links with the Romans as early as 300 BC? With such rich history, Madurai would fulfil every inch of the history buff in you. The city was built around the Sri Meenakshi Temple, which is also its prime attraction. The temple is believed to have been built over 2,000 years ago although renovations were added in the more recent centuries. It is truly a living and breathing temple, where ancient practices of worship are still undertaken. It has very colourful gopurams out in the sunlight but the interiors are hidden away from the sun. Exploring the temple in a bit of darkness only adds to the mystery and beauty of it. The Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal was built by King Thirumalai Nayak during the 16th century. It is Madurai's second most visited attraction, highlighting the era of the Nayaks. Unfortunately, most of the palace is already destroyed although the Celestial Pavilion still remains, along with a few structures around it. Still, the palace showcases the unique style of architecture of that era, mostly that of the Indo-Saracenic style. Next is the Gandhi Museum, one of the seven main museums dedicated to Gandhi in India. It holds some personal items used by Gandhi, even the blood-stained clothes he used during his assassination. The museum also highlights India's fight for independence through pictures and photographs. Last is one of the oldest Catholic churches in the country, Saint Mary's Cathedral, built around the 18th century. The present structure though was built around the 19th century. Capturing the heart and soul of Tamil Nadu, Madurai is an ancient city striving to keep up with the modern times.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Sri Meenakshi Temple, Thirumalai Nayakar Mahal, Gandhi Museum and Saint Mary's Cathedral
    Gopuram of Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai (Image from Strudelt via Flickr)

    World-class heritage sites...

    3. Mahabalipuram - Just 60 kilometres away to the south of Chennai is the ancient city of Mahabalipuram. The Group of Monuments around Mahabalipuram has been designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the rock-cut structures were built around the 7th century and such intricacy is hard to believe as early as that time. Arjuna's Penance is a massive open-air bas relief monolith carving depicting the story of Arjuna doing penance for the Lord Shiva. It is also referred to as the Descent of the Ganges as the rock is divided into two parts, almost resembling the story of the descent of the Ganga river to the world. Sculptures depicting animals, Hindu deities and other celestial beings form most of the monument. The Shore Temple lies next to the ocean, standing out with its golden colour amidst the turquoise colour of the water. There were actually seven of these temples but the remaining six are submerged under the water. This temple is unique in that it has both Vishnu and Shiva as its presiding deities. Next is the Pancha Rathas, referring to five chariot temples named after the Pandava brothers. Most of the temples aren't completely done though as Narasimhavarman I, the one who commissioned for their building, died before they were completed. Out of all these sculptures, the Dharamaraja Ratha is the most grand, comprising of sculptures of Lord Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu and Parvati it its exterior. You can also explore the eight Cave Temples of Mahabalipuram, namely: Krishna Caves, Varaha Caves, Mahishasuramardini Caves, Trimurti Caves, Kotikal Caves, Tiger Caves, Atiranachanda Caves and Panchapandava Caves. The different caves depict the stories of the different Hindu deities they were created for. Last but not the least is Krishna's Butter Ball, a seemingly large boulder, sitting effortlessly on a slope, being able to defy gravity for many years now.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Arjuna's Penance, Shore Temple, Pancha Rathas, Cave Temples and Krishna's Butter Ball
    4. Thanjavur - Thanjavur is a small town in Tamil Nadu but has made its mark in the map of tourist destinations around the state because of the Brihadeeswarar Temple. This temple is part of the Great Living Cholas, designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Brihadeeswarar Temple was built during the 1,000 AD by Raja Raja Chola, meaning it has been in existence for over 1,000 years now. This temple is the best example of the architectural brilliance of the Chola dynasty. The temple is a huge complex, almost resembling a fort in appearance. It has three different gopurams, huge in size and with sculptures depicting Hindu deities in different poses. It's a wonder how the temple complex was completed in just seven years, given its huge size and the intricacy of its structures. A part of the Great Living Cholas as well is the Gangaikonda Cholapuram, built by Raja Raja Chola's son, Rajendra Chola. It is a mini version of the former temple but the architectural beauty is still there. The sculptures here can take you in a journey through the Hindu mythological stories. Last is the Thanjavur Palace, somewhat of an underrated attraction in the city. Though the palace is not that well-maintained, it showcases the architectural styles of the Nayak and Maratha rulers. Some of the passages inside the palace are dimly lit so you need to reach it during a clear day. Murals are bountiful in some of the ceilings of the palace as well statues, sculptures and paintings of the bygone era.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Brihadeeswarar Temple, Gangaikonda Cholapuram and Thanjavur Palace
    Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur (Image from Narasimman Jayaraman via Flickr)

    Away from the tropical heat...

    5. Ooty - This is Tamil Nadu's most popular hill station and is usually a part of every traveller's itinerary when in the state. There's no better way to reach the hill station other than the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. This railway line is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site as well. Running on steam locomotor, the train runs through some of the most scenic landscapes around Ooty, where you can spot waterfalls, tea estates, forests and hills, even passing through bridges and tunnels. Attractions around Ooty are mainly natural ones, highlighting the pristine beauty of the hill station. The Botanical Gardens is a favourite amongst locals and foreigners alike. With tons of lush greenery, colourful flowers and play areas, it's the best attraction for families. Also a good option for families is the Pykara Lake where boating facilities are available. Surrounded by greenery and mountain views, you can enjoy the picturesque boat ride amidst the lake. Although a bit more commercialised, the Ooty Lake has more boating options, pedal, motor or row, so it's ideal for families or even groups of friends. Avalanche Lake is one of the most unexplored lakes in Ooty but it requires a bit of travelling as it's out of the city centre. Its beauty is unmatched though there are no activities that you can do in here. If you're into view points, there are several around the hill station too. The highest point in Ooty, the Doddabetta Peak, has good views of the Nilgiri mountain ranges and the valleys below. However, it's best visited only when it's a clear day. Shooting Point is another scenic spot that requires a bit of trekking to reach. This point has been the spot for many scenes of Bollywood movies and is a photographer's haven. The beauty of Ooty is that it is very much developed as a tourist destination but still retains its charm as a picturesque hill station.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Nilgiri Mountain Railway, Botanical Gardens, Pykara Lake, Ooty Lake, Avalanche Lake, Doddabetta Peak and Shooting Point
    6. Kodaikanal - While there are many hill stations around Tamil Nadu, Kodaikanal remains one of its hidden gems. What's not to love about this hill station? It is serene, has natural attractions, a pleasant climate and can be covered within a day or two. Starting with the main attraction of the hill station, the star-shaped Kodaikanal Lake is located right at the centre of it. Boating facilities are available here or you can also opt to just enjoy the views beside the lake. There are other lakes around Kodaikanal but they are located a bit further away, namely the Berijam Lake and the Mannavanur Lake. If you want more serene lake destinations, these two are great options although dining and activity options are lesser in them. The Bryant Park is a suitable attraction for families, where they can enjoy the lush greenery all around and where kids can run and frolic as much as they want. Kodaikanal's most popular religious site is the Kurinji Andavar Temple, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is also made famous because the rare specie of flower, the kurinji, blooms here once every 12 years. Approachable by a trek from the first lake is the Bear Shola Waterfalls. The waterfalls look more majestic during the monsoon season as the water is quite huge and the surrounding Shola forests are greener. Suitable for adventure lovers is the Vattakanal Waterfalls, about seven kilometres away from the hill station, the last three kilometres approachable only by trekking. The waterfalls are divided into three sections, with the last two being the most challenging to reach. Also further away from Kodaikanal, about 20 kilometres, is the Kukkal Caves. You also need to trek a bit to reach the caves proper and by doing so, you can access the hundreds of years old stalactites and stalagmites formation inside it. What makes Kodaikanal interesting is that it has an assortment of attractions, ranging from natural ones to manmade ones that you can explore. Yet it isn't as crowded unlike the other commercial hill stations of India.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Kodaikanal Lake, Berijam Lake, Mannavanur Lake, Bryant Park, Kurinji Andavar Temple, Bear Shola Waterfalls, Vattakanal Waterfalls and Kukkal Caves
    View from Kodaikanal (Image from Vinoth Chandar via Flickr)

    Of natural beauty...

    7. Kanyakumari - They say that there's no other place in India where you can view the sunrise and sunset so clearly than in Kanyakumari. Located at the southernmost tip of mainland India, Kanyakumari is a small town blessed with natural beauty. When in Kanyakumari, it's a must to visit the Triveni Sangam, the confluence of the big three bodies of water, namely: Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. This confluence can be viewed at the main beach of the city, the Kanyakumari Beach. A boat ride from the beach shores can take you to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, dedicated to Swami Vivekananda. The views of the sea are quite stunning from here, especially if you visit around sunset or sunrise. You would also be passing by the Thiruvalluvar Statue amidst the boat ride, dedicated to a renowned Tamil poet and philosopher, Thiruvalluvar. Back then, you can easily access the statue and climb to the top, but access to the statue has been banned now so you can only view it from a distance. The Thirparappu Waterfalls, located about 50 kilometres away from the city, is another must visit. During monsoon season, when the rains feed the water coming from the river to the waterfalls, this attraction looks even more enticing. Finally, at the end of your trip, visit the Sunset Point of Kanyakumari. It is just two kilometres away from the beach and here, you get unobstructed views of the sun setting.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Triveni Sangam, Kanyakumari Beach, Vivekananda Rock Memorial, Thiruvalluvar Statue, Thirparappu Waterfalls and Sunset Point
    Sun Rise in Kanyakumari (Image from Arun via Flickr)

    8. Mudumalai - For those who love wildlife, the Mudumalai National Park is Tamil Nadu's paradise for you. The forests of the national park are very diverse comprising of moist and dry deciduous types. As such, it is home to a wide variety of wildlife too, even the elusive royal Bengal tiger. While spotting the king of the forest can be quite hard, you can enjoy the rugged terrains and the possibility of spotting common animals such as buffalos, deers, elephants, bisons and wild boars. There are also many resident bird species in the national park and migratory bird species during winter season. As compared to other national parks, a wildlife safari here is more affordable not exceeding Rs. 200 per person. You cannot take your own vehicle inside the national park though. Trekking is allowed as long as you obtain prior permission and hire a local guide to assist you. To enjoy the lush jungles of Tamil Nadu, include Mudumalai in your itinerary as well. Wild animals, dense forests, chirping of the birds... All these await you in the city of Mudumalai.
    • Must Visit Attraction - Mudumalai National Park
    Enrich your spiritual side...

    9. Kanchipuram - We're coming to the end of our list and we're rounding it up with some of the best destinations around Tamil Nadu, like Kanchipuram. Also known as the City of a Thousand Temples, Kanchipuram has been ruled by many dynasties giving its temples their rich history and beauty. For the devout Hindus, Kanchipuram is a must visit because it is one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism in India. The Ekambareswarar Temple is the city's most important religious site. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, although when exactly it was built is not known, but scholars say it has been in existence since 600 AD. The temple has undergone several renovations under different dynasties like the Pallavas, Cholas and most recently, the Vijayanagars. It has one of the highest gopurams in the country and a thousand-pillared hall, as well as a 3,000 year-old mango tree. Next is the Kailasanatha Temple, believed to be the oldest temple in Kanchipuram. It is also dedicated to Lord Shiva, built by the Pallavas mainly. Unlike the former temple, this one isn't as crowded as it isn't used much as a place of worship anymore. There are over 50 shrines here dedicated to the different forms of Shiva, which are simply stunning in intricacy. Another temple worth visiting is the Varadharaja Perumal Temple, dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It has a musical pillar hall, wherein the pillars create different notes of music when tapped. Also interesting are the carvings of golden and sliver lizard in one of the ceilings of the temple, whereby touching any of these lizards is supposed to take away the devotee's sin. There are many more temples around Kanchipuram, although they're not reaching the thousands anymore. If you have the time, you can also visit the nearby Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary, where different species of resident and migratory birds can be spotted easily especially during winter.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Ekambareswarar Temple, Kailasanatha Temple and Varadharaja Perumal Temple (Vedanthangal Bird Sanctuary - Optional)
    Kailasanath Temple in Kanchipuram (Image from Ssriram MT via Wikimedia)

    10. Tirunelveli - Last on this list is the temple city of Tirunelveli. It is one of Tamil Nadu's oldest cities and is home to a number of ancient Hindu temples. It lies close to the Tamirabarani River, which stands unpolluted and pristine, still one of the city's best natural sights. The Nellaiappar Kanthimathi Temple is the city's prime attraction. The temple is dedicated to both Shiva and Parvati, easily the largest religious site of Tirunelveli. Its gopuram is huge, designed with numerous sculptures of Hindu deities and other characters of Hindu mythologies. You can also find the Kurukkuthurai Murugan Temple, at the middle of the river itself. It is approachable after a walk from a stone bridge, connecting the temple to the city. During monsoon, the whole temple is submerged in water but on other seasons, its main sanctum can be visited. The Krishnapuram Venkatachalapathi Temple is dedicated to Lord Venkatachalapathi and of course his consorts, Sri Devi and Bhoo Devi. This temple is most well-known for its intricate sculptures, life-size and mimics that of the expressions of real humans. Another must visit temple, the Valliyur Murugan Temple, is located amidst a hill and lush greenery. Dedicated to Lord Murugan, the temple is very picturesque because of its location. The Thirukkurungudi Temples are five temples dedicated to Lord Vishnu, revered holy by Vaishnavites. The temples are spread around Thirukkurungudi, with some being approachable only by a jeep ride. Finally, for the Shaivities, exploring the Nava Kailasam Temples is a must as well when in Tirunelveli. These nine temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva, spread around different locations near the river. You must allot at least a day or two to fully complete this circuit.
    • Must Visit Attractions - Tamirabarani River, Nellaiappar Kanthimathi Temple, Kurukkuthurai Murugan Temple, Krishnapuram Venkatachalapathi Temple, Valliyur Murugan Temple, Thirukkurungudi Temples and Nava Kailasam Temples

    Looking for an all-in-one destination? Tamil Nadu has it all, from heritage sites, religious sites, natural jungles and yes, even developed cities. Just a trip to the state can give you a well-rounded tour of what India is all about. As a bonus, enjoy the warm hospitality of the Tamils and relish in the tummy-filling delights around the state. Enjoy your trip in Tamil Nadu!